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Editorial
From the American Head and Neck Society
November 5, 2020

Expanding Indications for the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine: One Small Step for the Prevention of Head and Neck Cancer, but One Giant Leap Remains

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
  • 2Department of Population Health Sciences, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
  • 3Department of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston
  • 4Hollings Cancer Center, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston
  • 5Department of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020;146(12):1099-1101. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.4068

In the US, the incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV)–related oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) has been growing at an alarming rate for the past 4 decades.1-3 In 2011, HPV-related OPC was predicted to surpass cervical cancer in annual incidence in the US by 2020.2 However, because of the continued decreasing incidence of cervical cancer and the accelerating incidence of OPC, HPV-related OPC actually surpassed cervical cancer to become the most common HPV-related malignancy in the US in 2015.4 Currently, nearly 19 000 new cases of HPV-related OPC are diagnosed in the US annually.5 The decrease in cervical cancer incidence is partially attributable to effective screening programs and the early detection of precancerous lesions.6 Unfortunately, effective screening tests for precancerous HPV-related lesions of the oropharynx are lacking. Therefore, the best opportunity to curb the epidemic of HPV-related OPC is through vaccination against the oncogenic strains of HPV responsible for OPC.4

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